I am a typical mom who makes most of the purchasing decisions in my family. I cut coupons, read labels, shop in bulk, and do my best to purchase healthy products. Because I am concerned about exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in food and beverage packaging, I've made a few changes to my shopping list. I bought non-polycarbonate bottles and sippy cups for my daughter, we rarely eat canned food, and I've given up my diet soda habit -- or at least I've cut back. And in the eyes of the chemical industry, I am a prime target in their campaign to improve their image and win back my trust.
The Washington Post reported that just last week a high level meeting took place to devise a strategy for keeping BPA in our food supply. Companies attending the meeting included the Coca-Cola Co. and Del Monte, along with trade groups and other organizations which lobby for the chemical manufacturers such as the North American Metal Packaging Alliance Inc., the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the American Chemistry Council. These companies are on the defensive because moms like me have demanded alternatives. In response, six of the major baby bottle manufacturers have announced they will stop using BPA, major retailers have stopped selling them, and BPA has now been banned from baby bottles and sippy cups in Suffolk County, NY, Chicago and the entire state of Minnesota. The BPA industry wants to prevent any further bans and held this intensive meeting to discuss a strategy for protecting their market share.
Why am I concerned about BPA? BPA is a hormone disrupting chemical that acts like estrogen and can interfere with normal development and function of the body. In animal studies, BPA exposure has been linked to prostate cancer, breast cancer, pre-diabetes (insulin resistance), fat metabolism, and changes in the way the brain develops resulting in behavioral abnormalities. Emerging human research has found similar evidence of harm. And all of us are exposed; over 90% of Americans tested by the CDC were found to have residues of BPA in their bodies.
The notes from this meeting were verified in the Post article by one of the industry lobbyists as being accurate.
At the top of the industry list of ways to win back the public's trust was their "holy grail" spokesperson identified as a "pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country about the benefits of BPA." Other strategies discussed at the meeting included focusing on how BPA bans would disproportionately put minorities at risk, particularly Hispanics and African-Americans whom they cited as being more inclined to be poor and dependent on canned foods.
In addition, because Connecticut and California are close to passing bans on BPA in infant formula containers, the BPA industry has identified these states as targets where industry "members are focusing on more legislative battles and befriending people that are able to manipulate the legislative process." Manipulate the legislative process?!
Manipulating the public, manipulating the legislature and just last month, evidence that the industry has been cozy with the FDA and has manipulated the scientific justification for keeping this chemical approved in our food supply.
While the industry has characterized the campaign to eliminate BPA as "lies," they have resorted to the failed tactics of the tobacco industry by putting profits before protecting the public's health. NRDC will continue to be actively involved in promoting legislation that bans BPA and in advocating for the FDA to revoke their approval of BPA as a food additive. If you live in California, review our action alert and ask your legislator to support a BPA ban in children's products.
This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.